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Archive for August, 2010

No matter how slowly it feels time is going through the summer, something happens near the ides of August. For the education community, in general, it is gearing up time for the start of school with opening days occurring from then through the day after Labor Day, depending on the district.

The buildings are usually in major disarray, clutter abounds, there are last-minute registrations, often times unexpected changes in staff, phone calls, papers, meetings, lesson plans, class schedules – an avalanche of activity as a group and as individuals.

In addition to the usual flurry of activity I’m engaged in during the last few days before school starts, my personal avalanche has often involved finalizing getting a job. That happened in 1982 when I was hired during a phone conversation, left for a planned family vacation, and returned the night before the first day of school. It happened in 1993 when I worked for a week without a contract altogether. It happened in 1997 when I had a job but didn’t know where it would be located.

And it is happening again in 2010 as I return to the Kittery School system to take an 80% Technologist position. Oh, yes, I signed a contract back on June 23, but that was for a 60% 7-12 Integrator position working in two buildings, the details not defined at that time.

Fast forward to August 17 when the Superintendent and School Committee restructured the technology department which included eliminating the position of coordinator. My 60% position went to 80% and was to now include grades 4-8 hardware and software support in addition to integration. I’ve been part of a 4-hour meeting assigning roles for this new team (two positions remain unfilled) and prioritizing what MUST be done before the kids come in and what can wait. There’s more work than time, surprise, surprise.

Staff returns to district tomorrow at 7:30 with students arriving on Wednesday, September 1.

It’s been two years since I’ve traveled this road. Some of the road signs have changed since I was last here from a new principal to more students and fewer hours to get the job done. There’s lots more equipment and new software, staff that I don’t know and staff that I know well.

Part of me feels like I’m in Groundhog Day – most of me feels like I’m going home – and that feels wonderful.

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One of the organizations I learned about during my unemployment was the Women’s Business Center located in Portsmouth, NH. I took a risk in November 2008 and called to ask if they offered any services for professional women that were not entrepreneurs. I was invited to come in for a complimentary one-hour counseling session with Lois Matheson who had recently started working there as a counselor.

Lois and I connected immediately and found ourselves laughing (and me sometimes crying) as I shared my walk to that point. She offered some constructive criticism of my resume, invited me to come back, and sent me off feeling a whole lot better about myself than I had for a long time. I joined WBC and tried to attend meetings as opportunity allowed. I felt a bit out of water as pursuing my own business was not really my passion at that time, but the support from the organization, including Nancy Boyle and new director Christine Davis, was absolutely outstanding!

So it was with sadness that I learned of their closing effective August 31, 2010. I don’t know the ins and outs of the nonprofit world and did read about some grants that might allow a new organization to be created, but that’s another story for another day.

Christine sent out what may be her last newsletter today sharing some of what she has learned these last weeks as her life goes through unexpected change. She’s a lot younger than I am, but the lessons she shares are appropriate for us all no matter the age. Her story can be my story. My story can be your story. We are here to learn from each other as we walk along the path.

With her permission, I share the newsletter with you:

Chris Bank Headshot CROPPED

As my final days are winding down here at the WBC I have finally had some time to reflect on all that has transpired over the past few weeks and since my arrival here less than 2 years ago.  I won’t pretend that this hasn’t been difficult.  To be totally honest it has been a lot tougher than I had imagined.  So many emotions to deal with that include grappling with the fear of the unknown.  Intellectually we all know that things will work out.  We all face struggles and we get through them.  It is during that period where you don’t know how it will work out that can really knock you on your butt.

Going through struggles can also be very insightful. We learn a lot about ourselves and others when the going gets tough.  It is easy to lead when life is easy.  It’s when life really takes a nose dive that true leaders shine.  Being in charge and being a leader is not the same thing.

I have learned much from this experience as well as others and thought I would share a few tidbits of wisdom.  Maybe 39 is too young to have wisdom so you can call it what you like.

·   People aren’t stupid.  They can see through insincerity and will remember how they were treated.
·   Life is tough.  Accept that success requires sacrifice and setbacks.  Luck has nothing to do with it.  Celebrate the moments of laughter, joy and glamour when you get them.
·   Good people do come out on top.  We hired people that we like, be that person.  Be humble, ethical, honest and genuine.  It matters.
·   Surround yourself with people who have the strengths that complement your weaknesses.
·   Ask for help if you need it.  We all need it sometimes and it feels good to do something nice for another.
·   Make career decisions based on who you are and what inspires you.  Don’t live out someone else’s dreams or priorities.
·   Be dependable.
·   Appreciate everything you have.  That includes financial well-being, health, a loving family, true friendships, and colleagues, bosses and customers that are great to work with.
·   Doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest thing.
·   Speak up when you are not happy with something or someone but do it with kindness.
·  No one is entitled to anything.  Work for it and appreciate it when you get it.
·  Accept responsibility for your mistakes immediately.
·  You may not be able to control what happens to you but you can control how you deal with it.
.   If you believe in something invest in it.
.   Give back to your community.
·   Take the high road.  All the cool people are there.

Christine Davis
Executive Director, WBC
Thank you, Christine, for letting me share this. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Lois and Nancy for a better tomorrow.

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My most recent post dealt with my feelings of failure relative to the job search of the last two years.

I know the feelings of failure and poor self-esteem that I shared are not unique to me. These two specters are often in tandem along with their friend lack of self-confidence. They come in, raising their ugly heads to destroy.

Their power is strong and comes from unthinking comments made while we were young, deliberate emotional abuse on the part of a parent or other adult, pressures of not meeting parents’ expectations, ridicule by peers, and specifically job related, from negative feelings that resulted when the interview wasn’t scheduled, the job wasn’t offered, the money gets less and less while the expenses don’t.

It’s a struggle to quiet the “monkey noise” in your head and reclaim the competent professional you are. Being with others who share the experience, having a good support system in place, reaching out to others, doing something creative, meditating or praying all help.

A friend passed along an email she received from motivational coach, Dr. Zimmerman, which I think is pertinent to keeping things in perspective.

Dear God:

Please untie the k”nots” that are in my mind, my heart and my life.

Remove the have nots, the can nots and the do nots that I have in my mind.

Erase the will nots, may nots, might nots that may find a home in my heart.

Release me from the could nots, would nots and should nots that obstruct my life.

And most of all, Dear God, I ask you remove from my mind, my heart and my life all of the ‘am nots’ that I have allowed to hold me back, especially the thought that I am not good enough.

AMEN

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I’m very blessed to have a husband who loves me enough to confront me. After word about my upcoming return to the Kittery, Maine, school system as a 60% 7-12 Technology Integrator for MLTI was revealed in last Sunday’s paper, I got asked lots of questions. My husband was in earshot as I told the back story. This happened repeatedly as I saw folks after church and at an afternoon concert, all of whom had either seen the article or noticed my updates on LinkedIn and FaceBook.

Monday morning, he asked me if I were grateful to be going back to work. “Of course,” I replied. “Well, you don’t sound it,” was his response. I was dumbfounded.  He continued, “You sound as if getting called back to Kittery is somehow not good enough.” As we talked further, he replayed how I had sounded the previous day. I realized that I had not sounded grateful and was downplaying the successful end of my journey.

With tears now coming down my face, I told him I felt that all my hard work with informational interviews, follow-up phone calls, opportunity on national TV with CBS, professional evaluation of my resume, networking, dozens and dozens and dozens of applications, a bunch of interviews (and later rejections), probably a half-dozen newspaper articles in two different local papers, facilitating an employment support group … and here I was. The ONLY reason I was not still in the job search game was because a position had been created in my former district for which I had recall rights. All my work was for naught … Heck, even Harry Smith had told me, “I’d hire you in a minute,” after my first interview on the Early Show. And 18 months after that experience, the BEST I could do was a contractual call back.

I AM A FAILURE!

That was the root of it! That’s what had been making me sound ungrateful as I told people the latest chapter in my story.

I AM A FAILURE!

By now, of course, I was blathering and my nose was running. I realized that lack of self-esteem was sneaking up behind me and wrapping me with a 2×4, coloring everything that had gone on in my life with the color of failure, taking the beautiful rainbow of new experiences and new friends and making it fade to black.

Bob kindly (yet most strongly) put his hands on my shoulders and reminded me that I was far from a failure. I had taken many risks through my two years of unemployment, there had to be a reason that CBS picked me to follow, I stepped out of my comfort zone repeatedly in going to networking meetings, I had been interviewed a bunch of times and the reasons I was not hired had nothing to do with my capabilities, I started Seacoast Peers for Careers and had helped many other folks, I would be filling a real void in teacher support that had exists for 24 months

He further reminded me that not only was I going to be working back in education (my first love), I would be back again in MLTI, that I had tried my wings teaching Communications for CoLead at UNH and brought a social media component to the curriculum. AND, as time had gone one, I had indicated that part-time employment in something I loved would be the best that could happen.

And it had …

I heard his words and started to laugh through my tears. I didn’t completely believe it yet but did acknowledge how happy I would have been if one of my colleagues from Peers for Careers had had a similar experience in returning to work. Why was it less for me?

Yet again, the specter of lack of self-esteem was right there to come and take my joy.

Does it ever stop? Do we always second guess ourselves and think less of ourselves than we really are?

Fortunately, I have Bob to challenge me to get past those feelings.

Fortunately, also counteracting those failure feelings were some great comments I received on LinkedIn and FaceBook and from those who had written me after getting their own jobs, some of which I share with you here:

  • “Congratulations! I was so happy to see that you just accepted a new position as I was looking over my LinkedIn updates. I really enjoyed attending the Seacoast Worker meetings last summer/fall and really appreciated all the support and help the group offered during my job search. Congratulations again – the Kittery School Department is so lucky to have you!” – K.

  • “Just saw your update on LinkedIn..glad to hear you’re back doing what you like to do. Best of luck.” – M.

  • “And, most importantly, thanks for everything.  Your group (and the other I attended) was awesome and helped a great deal.  Not only did I get some technical help (resumes, interviewing, etc.) but, more importantly, it was a huge emotional and mental lift for me.  Again, thanks for everything.  Please know that you have helped a lot of people with this.” – E.

  • “Just got around to checking out the front page of Foster’s!! You’ve become a favorite spokesperson for unemployment concerns.” – M.

  • “I think it’s vital for people to be in the group atmosphere where they can find people in the same position as themselves. You can only get the kind of support you need from people who are walking in your shoes. … You do such a wonderful job leading SPFC Diana. … I wish nothing but the best for everyone and hope GOD’S plan shows itself for everyone soon.” – T.

  • “CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! You are an inspiration to all of us, and you have really demonstrated how to get back into the workforce successfully! You deserve this and I wish you every success in your new position. 60% is a lot better than 0%!” – K.

When I started this journey, I knew that sharing my story was part of the process. I guess that’s just the teacher in me, knowing how much we learn through each other, especially when those experiences are similar to our own. My story is in so many ways the story of many living the life of the unemployed. The details may be different, but the emotions are the same.

I know my work of sharing is not yet done. How it will continue remains to be seen.

As I was writing this post, I took a moment to go to dictionary.com:

Failure is an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success; a nonperformance of something due, required, or expected while success is the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors, a successful performance or achievement.

Hmmm, don’t that beat all? I guess, I’M A SUCCESS after all.

In overcoming fear and sharing our stories with others,

we find the truth about who we really are—

and discover that we’re not alone.
~ Lisa Hammond

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Gratitude is an attitude that hooks us up to our source of supply. And the more grateful you are, the closer you become to your maker, to the architect of the universe, to the spiritual core of your being. – Bob Proctor

My husband Bob went to check the Powerball number in Sunday’s paper. Lo and behold, whose face should greet him below the fold but mine — yet again. Fame is so yesterday. Yawn. Tee hee. Those of you who have been following my story know that I have been mentioned in a number of articles during the two years I’ve been out of work.

Seriously, along with a young man with a few years of teaching experience, I had been interviewed because of losing our jobs. According to the article, Laid-off area teachers scramble to find work, some 200 teachers had been laid off statewide this year with the southeastern and northern ends of New Hampshire the hardest hit. Fortunately, Lee Sims (the other teacher in the article) was able to quickly find a position at a local private school. Others, of course, are not so lucky.

Even more unfortunate will be the students who will bear the brunt of the loss of teachers and programs.

It was mentioned in the article that I am returning to work in my former school district. A position was created this spring for a K-12 Technology Integrator. Funding was sufficient for a 60% position that would deal with grades 7-12 to support the Maine Learning Technology Initiative one-to-one laptop program. Because I had the experience, education, and certification, I was offered the post.

While it has some components of my former job, it is not the same. Instead of responsibilities for integration, small group instruction, staff support, hardware and network for grades 6-8, I will be working with solely with teachers in two buildings facilitating technology use in their classrooms.

While I would not have turned down a full-time position, I have come to realize that part-time is a good thing at this point in my life. It allows the best of both worlds. I am working at something I enjoy. Yet, I’m hoping to be able to have some time with Bob when he’s not working and also continue doing empowerment group facilitation with Seacoast Peers for Careers.

Things have changed in two years, including me. There are new applications and new expectations. Some teachers I don’t know at all; some know me very well. That’s both good and bad. There’s a new superintendent with her own vision for the district.

What hasn’t changed is my enthusiasm for my craft and gratefulness for all these new blessings in my life.

It’s a new day and a new school year! Here we go!

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It’s official!

Labor Day 2010 will find me engulfed in beginning a new school year and a new job.

I have a 60% position back in Kittery, Maine, as a 7-12 Technology Integrator for MLTI (Maine Learning Technology Initiative) one-to-one laptop program starting August 30.

The light at the end of the tunnel is no longer an on-coming train!

Wish me luck.

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I spent four days last week in beautiful Castine, Maine, home of the Maine Maritime Academy, and the site of the annual MLTI (Maine Learning Technology Initiative) conference. This was an opportunity for me to get my brain re-activated in “all things laptop” as I get ready to return to the Kittery, Maine, school system as a 60% MLTI Integrator for grades 7-12. For those of you outside of education, that means I will be helping teachers bring more uses of technology into their classrooms not for the technology itself but as a tool for education.

I had a chance to reconnect with some folks and meet lots of new ones. Herein were the unexpected convergence of various parts of my life that are outside my role as technology educator. As they were unfolding, I was fully aware of the comment I made during my interview with the producer of the CBS piece that this entire unemployment experience was directly tied to my spiritual journey. There could be no other explanation why these seemingly disparate events occurred.

One – I had a book with me that dealt with strategies for living the second half of your life including information about self-healing. When a woman I met made a comment about being involved in “healing arts.” That led to hours of conversation over the next two evenings about energy and healing which gave me opportunity to share my experience in healing touch spiritual ministry and how it relates to my Christian walk.

Two – Someone I had met earlier in the week was wearing a pendant etched with a phrase about choosing happiness and putting your energy into that aspect. A conversation ensued about the impact Elie Wiesel’s Night had on her and how much good Wiesel did during his lifetime after living through the Holocaust. I, too, had been impacted by the book and mentioned another, The Hiding Place, written by another Holocaust survivor, Corrie Ten Boom, a Christian, whose family had hidden Jews and members of the Dutch Underground. Although Wiesel’s faith was completely shaken, Ten Boom’s was strengthened by the experience. Ten Boom felt “there is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still” and that “God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies.”

Three – Lastly, I found myself using my job search experience with two different people. One I encouraged to make the post-interview phone call to check on the status of the position and the other I told about using a Professional Profile at the beginning of a resume, which provides a clear indication and summary of your skills, experience and accomplishments and value to the employer. I might have been away from Seacoast Peers for Careers in person but not in action.

Could these happenings be a variation on Romans 8:28 (New Living Translation)?

We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

I’d like to think so.

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